MOORHEAD, Minn. — Bars and restaurants defying Gov. Tim Walz's orders to shut down in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 are not heroic. They are breaking the law and need to be dealt with accordingly.

Raging against the heavy hand of government? No. They are raging against science, medicine and public safety.

That's why Minnesota, led by attorney general Keith Ellison, is right to penalize businesses that refuse to abide by the rules that close bars and restaurants to indoor dining. In the case of Boardwalk Bar & Grill in East Grand Forks, for example, the state sued and a judge ordered it closed. In the case of a few Twin Cities area bars, the state intends to suspend their liquor licenses for 60 days.

Those are proper punishments, despite the grandstanding by governor-wannabe and current Senate majority leader Paul Gazelka. The Brainerd legislator believes he can ride outstate Minnesota COVID outrage to the governor's mansion in 2022. As usual, he's willing to play the rural vs. urban wedge instead of putting public health first.

Should bars that flout Gov. Walz's orders to remain closed have their liquor licenses suspended?

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  • Yes

    51%

  • No

    49%

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Politics before people, just like always with the Minnesota GOP.

Nobody wants to see the businesses go under or their owners be damaged financially, although those clearly might be the results. The pandemic has been crushing to many small businesses.

The point is that business owners cannot choose to ignore laws they dislike. Period. If we are a country based on the rule of law, a statement Republicans wave around more often than the American flag and the Constitution when it suits their needs, then we must follow the laws whether or not we agree with them.

About the only thing more disheartening than conservative business owners ignoring the law is local law enforcement doing the same, talking publicly about "government overreach" and deferring to the state to enforce its mandates.

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Are there other laws police are choosing not to enforce because they disagree with them?

The issue isn't "liberty" or "freedom" as some defiant bar owners are saying in their attempt to become martyrs and, perhaps, land a guest spot on Fox News. The issue is fairness. The vast majority of bars and restaurants are playing by the rules, doing the best they can to adhere to the health guidelines and stay in business.

Those business owners are the real heroes, hanging on by a thread and sacrificing the most while trying to keep their customers and staff healthy. Their selflessness might be saving lives. It won't land them on conservative radio or TV programs, but it's the right thing to do.

Sort of like, oh, driving 30 miles per hour in a 30 miles per hour zone. Or not passing a school bus when the stop arm is out. Or not getting drunk and driving.

Those are the laws. If somebody breaks them, they should be held accountable. Minnesotans shouldn't expect anything less.

Why should a handful of bar and restaurant owners get special treatment? If you break the law, expect to pay the consequences.

Readers can reach Forum News Service columnist Mike McFeely at mmcfeely@forumcomm.com or (701) 451-5655